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Evolution. 2001 Jul;55(7):1486-91.

Adaptive life-history evolution in the livebearing fish Brachyrhaphis rhabdophora: genetic basis for parallel divergence in age and size at maturity and a test of predator-induced plasticity.

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Department of Biology, University of Vermont, Burlington 05405, USA.


I document a genetic basis for parallel evolution of life-history phenotypes in the livebearing fish Brachyrhaphis rhabdophora from northwestern Costa Rica. In previous work, I showed that populations of B. rhabdophora that co-occur with predators attain maturity at smaller sizes than populations that live in predator-free environments. I also demonstrated that this pattern of phenotypic divergence in life histories was independently repeated in at least five isolated drainages. However, life-history phenotypes measured from wild-caught fish could be attributed to environmental effects rather than to genetic differences among populations. In the present study, I reared male fish from four populations (two that co-occur with predators and two from predator-free environments) under four sets of environmental conditions. The pattern of phenotypic divergence in maturation size documented in the field between populations collected from different predation environments persisted after two generations in the laboratory. I also found a genetic basis for differences between populations in the age at which males attain maturity and in growth rates. By rearing fish in four different common environments, I tested for phenotypic plasticity in male life-history traits in response to nonlethal exposure to predators. There was a significant delay in the onset of sexual maturity in fish exposed to predators relative to those in the control, but no differences among treatments in size at maturity or growth rates. These results, coupled with previous work on B. rhabdophora, demonstrate a repeated pattern of parallel evolutionary divergence among genetically isolated populations that is strongly associated with predation.

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